Big wins for LDP and coalition partner will revive the effort to amend Japan’s pacifist constitution, a long-held goal of Shinzo Abe.
Japan’s governing party and its coalition partner have scored a sweeping victory in an upper house election held in the wake of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s assassination.
The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) won 63 seats, or more than half of the 125 seats up for grabs, local media reported on Monday.
LDP’s coalition partner Komeito won 13 seats.
Their victory in Sunday’s vote means political forces supportive of revising Japan’s pacifist constitution – a long-held ambition of Abe – retaining a two-third majority in the 248-member upper chamber.
The Kyodo news agency said The pro-constitutional amendment camp, which in addition to the LDP-Komeito coalition, includes the opposition Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party) and the Democratic Party for the People, now has 179 seats.
Prime Fumio Kishida, an Abe protege, said late on Sunday that he would push ahead with plans to amend the constitution, which was imposed on Japan by the United States after World War II.
The charter, passed in 1947, reounces “war as a sovereign right of the nation”, and Abe had long sought to amend that provision, pointing to what he called a “severe” security environment, including China’s influence growing and North Korea’s nuclear and missiles programme.
Kishida said the ruling coalition “will discuss parliament over the constitution further so a consensus proposal can be compiled”.
But he said addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and rising prices would be his priorities.
He also praised Japan for holding the elections, two days after Abe was shot.
“The election, which is the foundation of democracy, was challenged by violence. It was extremely meaningful that we carried out the election. I will continue to work hard to protect the democracy,” he said.
Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister and a dominant force in the LDP, was shot with a homemade gun on Friday while he was delivering a campaign speech in the western city of Nara. The killing shocked a country where violence is rare.
Kishida may move cautiously on constitutional change, but the apparent victory looked set to pave the way for more defence spending, a key LDP election promise, said Robert Ward of the International Institute of Strategic Studies. Kishida “now has a green light for this”, Ward told the Reuters news agency.
While the LDP had its best election outcome since 2013, Kyodo said the main opposition party, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, lost six of the seats it held before Sunday’s vote. It now has 17 seats in the upper house.
Kenta Izumi, the CDP leader, told party leaders late on Sunday that he took the outcome as voters “not wanting to switch from the LDP and entrust us with running the government.”
He said he would not quit as party chief.
A record number of women also won seats in Sunday’s election, with some 35 of the 181 female candidates who contested the poll being elected to the upper house.
“The result reflects a slow but gradual change in the country’s male-dominated political landscape,” Kyodo said.